“Are non-human animals property to be owned and used, or are they sentient beings deserving of rights?” – Liz Marshall
I organized a viewing of “The Ghosts In Our Machine” with my vegan ladies Meetup group last week. I was so nervous to watch it, I had heard it was very emotional and I was scared we’d have a room full of traumatized ladies, particularly since we had a lot of new members at the event (hi newbies! we love you!). I’m glad to report that the movie was beautiful, moving, poignant.
“The Ghosts In Our Machine” shows animals through the lens of photographer Jo-Anne McArthur in an effort to show their individuality, their suffering, their intelligence. The movie consists of a lot of her photos, alongside film of her visiting various locations to get the pictures. The sad is juxtapositioned with the joyful, as tough scenes of fur farms and factory farms are cut with scenes from a farm sanctuary. The movement from despair to hope is a beautiful one, and very effective.
Some have complained that there was too much focus on McArthur in this film, but I think that’s missing the point. I loved learning about a woman who is so full of compassion and determination that she dedicates her life to doing something that gives her PTSD. Animal lovers have to remember that humans are animals too, and that to have true compassion, we have to have it for everyone. I was so deeply moved by McArthur’s experience and journey, her attempts to get her photographs into mainstream media, and the emotional struggle of breaking into places to take photos and having to leave the animals behind in those terrible conditions. Though many scenes in this film made me sad, the one that struck me the deepest was when McArthur was photographing a gorilla in a zoo and she had to put her camera down for a moment because she was too overwhelmed by the sadness in his eyes. Seeing the human to animal connection made me realize that this has been missing in many films about animals. I think showing what compassionate humans look like, how they are affected, how to connect is really important.
“The Ghosts In Our Machine” gave me an overwhelming respect for all the activists out there putting their mental health, their freedom, their money and even their lives on the line in an unending, thankless attempt to alleviate the suffering of animals. These people get labeled as militant, crazy, self-righteous, and a hundred other demeaning adjectives for doing what they believe is right – fighting injustice. They suffer for their work, and face unfair prejudice because of it. And yet everyday, they get up and do it again. I don’t know many people who could endure such treatment.
I put “The Ghosts In Our Machine” on par with “Blackfish“, the standard by which I judge all other animal rights films (based on it’s quality, efficacy and mass acceptance). It was moving, engaging, and effective without trying to be shocking or confrontational. It covered a wide range of animal exploitation: fur farms, factory farms, marine parks, zoos and lab testing. I don’t think it will hit as wide an audience as “Blackfish”, since it centers on many animals that the general public doesn’t care about, but it’s still an important film. Even I, someone who is already vegan, feel compelled to do more, to push further, to make a bigger difference, because of this movie.
Did any of you see “The Ghosts In Our Machine” yet? What did you think?